The Department of Government
The Department of Government

International Relations Speaker Series- Richard Jordan (Baylor Univ)

Rationalist Explanations for War and Multipolar Worlds

Wed, November 13, 2019 | RLP 1.302B

12:30 PM - 2:00 PM

International Relations Speaker Series- Richard Jordan (Baylor Univ)

Abstract: This paper extends bargaining models of conflict to multipolar worlds, i.e. to settings with more than two great powers. It shows that, in addition to familiar rationalist explanations---such as incentives to misrepresent, preventive war against rising states, and advantages from surprise attack---the distribution of power alone can cause war. In particular, three structural problems can emerge in multipolar worlds which are impossible in two-player settings: incentives to divide potential enemies, to chain-gang potential partners, and to conquer third parties. In each of these situations, players' outside options are inconsistent, and a bargain that all players prefer to war can be infeasible when the sum of players' demands exceeds the total pie. Existing multiplayer models generate a bargaining range because they artificially constrain the complexity of power. Consequently, current models constitute only a subset of the possible rationalist explanations for war. By drawing on traditional realist approaches within a rigorous, formal framework, this paper strives both to recover old explanations for conflict and to open new horizons for future research.


Richard Jordan's research and teaching interests include international politics, grand strategy, crisis decisionmaking, emerging technologies, and mathematical models of (in)equality. His work uses game theory and historical cases to analyze how states and leaders bargain before, during, and after conflic


Publications and Working Papers

“A Bargain Might not Exist: New Rationalist Explanations for War"

“War has its own Momentum"

“Symbolic Victory: Signaling Strength through Battlefield Choice"

“Fanatical Peace" with Kristopher Ramsay

"Deciding Like Cases Alike" with Benjamin Johnson

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